How a Dental Circus shaped today’s dentistry.

While you’re coordinating your calendar for 2017 and planning your April 27 visit to the The Lucy Hobbs Project 5th Annual Celebration in Philadelphia, clear an extra day or two to enjoy a city of firsts.

One historical stop: the Kornberg School of Dentistry’s Historical Dental Museum Collection at Temple University.

According to the museum site, it’s possible to  “trace the beginnings of dentistry in America through three generations of dentists from Josiah Flagg’s Revolutionary War-era practice to his grandson J. Foster Flagg, who in 1863 was one of the founders and a member of the faculty of the Philadelphia Dental College, the second oldest dental college in the country, which merged with Temple in 1907.”

Alongside the recreation of a nineteenth-century Victorian dental office,  dental equipment displays, and the personal possessions of former dental school students, faculty, and alumni, you’ll find evidence of one dental, ahem, showstopper: Painless Parker and his Dental Circus.

Grisly artifacts of this early 1900s charlatan include a tooth necklace and advertisements he used to generate business. SmithsonianMag.com aptly describe Parker (who legally changed his name from Edgar Randolph to “Painless” in 1915):

“Donning a top hat, coattails and a necklace he made out of teeth (supposedly the 357 teeth he pulled in one day), he partnered with William Beebe, a former employee of P.T. Barnum, to create a traveling dental circus in 1913. ”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/remember-when-pulling-teeth-was-fun-180960448/#0OGIs67CEmGtljBO.99

The college’s current dean, Dr. Amid Ismail, told SmithsonianMag.com that Parker “was a terrible student and only graduated because he pleaded with his dean to pass him.”

If there’s wisdom to be gained from past foibles, Parker’s practices seem a great place to begin:

1. ETHICS: “Parker’s most indisputable legacy to the field of dentistry is his contribution, through his bad acts, charlatanism and relentless pursuit of profits, to the development of professional ethics in dentistry,” Temple University Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry Dr. Amid Ismail told Smithsonianmag.com

2. SCIENCE: “Scientific evidence must remain the foundation of clinical care in any health field. Otherwise we will be victims to modern charlatans,” said Dr. Ismail.

3. MARKETING:  Though his messaging was less than truthful, Parker became the first dentist to openly advertise a dental practice. His success later allowed him to open a chain of clinics.

Read the history of this huckster and his “traveling caravan” at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/remember-when-pulling-teeth-was-fun-180960448/#0OGIs67CEmGtljBO.99

Plan your walk through history at the Kornberg School of Dentistry’s Historical Dental Museum Collection at Temple University: http://temple.pastperfect-online.com/

Save the Date for The Lucy Hobbs Project 5th Annual Celebration in Philadelphia:  http://thelucyhobbsproject.com/events/the-lucy-hobbs-project-5th-annual-celebration/

 

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